TRIBUTES have been paid to a true gentleman who was the heartbeat of the railways even after they closed.

Ken Tanner died on Wednesday aged 79 after being taken ill, and his passing has left a big hole in the railway community.

Ken had worked for the Great Western Railway since the age of 15, becoming a personnel manager, and was one of the few to stay on after Swindon’s Railway Works closed in 1986.

For the last 27 years, Ken had organised a weekly get together at the Central Community Centre, the old Railway Hospital, every Thursday for the former railway workers, which proved popular with between 80 and 100 people attending.

Aubrey Shepherd, 75, of Covingham, was a close friend having worked with him at the works before attending the Thursday Club.

He said: “Everybody is upset, people who didn’t already know were told at the meeting yesterday.

“We were supposed to have a speaker but that was cancelled because it was not deemed appropriate, and we spent the time remembering Ken.

“He was a friendly and approachable person and was everybody’s friend.

“The railway community are very much a close-knit community and we support each other and we will do the same through this.”

Nicky Alberry of the Great Western Enterprise had the pleasure of working with Ken in organising the weekly meetings and said that he will be a big loss to the railway community.

She said: “In life you you may be lucky to meet a handful of really nice and honest individuals and Ken was one of them.

“He used to look after everyone.

“The railway community is very close and he used to keep everyone informed of what was happening. I had known him since I started work for Great Western Enterprise in 1991 and it was a privilege to know him.

“Everyone met yesterday morning to hear the news and I was there with them and everyone was devastated.”

There are plans now to have a collection and put up a plaque in memory of Ken, which GWE are hoping to contribute to.